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Who's Next


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#1 liebs

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 08:54 AM

I think we all care about the future of one of the world's great ballet companies. So, if you had the power who would you appoint and why?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 10:15 AM

I don't know all the likely candidates, so I can't answer with a name, but if I were on the search committee I would want someone who:

1. ...was trained by and grew up in the Royal Ballet, who recognizes and respects the national character of the company and plans to build on the past.

2. ... will follow Ninette De Valois's precepts, that the repertory should consist of: the classics, contemporary classics, national works, and novelties (by which she meant new works that may not become classics, but which are needed to stimulate the dancers and provide a diversion for the audience). Even distribution of these.

3. ....will actively encourage new classical choreography. Who wants to bring ballet into the future -- but to do it from within ballet, not from without. London already has several excellent contemporary dance companies. It needs a ballet company.

4. ....can develop dancers, not just pick a few stars and put them in everything, but make the company look like a company again, with everyone involved, every dancer having a chance at roles.

5. .....if not a choreographer him or herself, can coach and stage ballets.

6. ...... can work with the theater's bureaucracy and can manage -- although the day to day running of the company can be delegated and supervised. What's needed is artistic vision and the ability to carry out that vision, not marketing skills.

#3 Watermill

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 11:06 AM

And the reason it would not be Monica Mason is...?

After all the backing and forthing in the "Mystery Man at OBT" thread, I can hardly let this one go by!

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 11:19 AM

There may well be age and/or gender bias -- I say "may"; I don't know. But often assistant directors don't make good directors. (I have no opinion on Ms. Mason; I'm not trying to say she would not be a good director. I don't know anything about her except as a dancer.)

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 12:13 PM

The other question, quite apart from whether Mason would be a good director or not (I think she'd be excellent), I've expressed elsewhere - does she want the job? NYCB tried to hand its Artistic Directorship to Jerome Robbins, but he turned it down. So, does Mason want it?

#6 dirac

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Posted 22 October 2002 - 01:58 PM

Louise Levene talks to Derek Deane about the succession at the Royal Ballet, and other matters, in the Telegraph:




http://www.telegraph.../ixartleft.html

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 22 October 2002 - 08:54 PM

Thanks, dirac. There's a bit of a nasty undertone to that one -- but that may be unfair. It may be the kind of breezy, "we're in the know but don't take anything too seriously" tone the editors want.

I actually think it's good to see speculation about who should take over the Royal Ballet in the press -- even if it's just speculation. It's good to turn a light on the process every now and again. Shows them people care.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 October 2002 - 02:25 AM

Not a bad idea, though, to appoint a sort of "Bishop Coadjutor" to Monica Mason while she guides the company, and the second learns the ropes of company directorship, and is the designated successor to Mason when she retires!:D

#9 Tracey

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Posted 23 October 2002 - 02:29 AM

Mjr Mel, I believe that is what most large corporations would call 'succession planning', which in this case sounds like a good idea :D

#10 grace

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Posted 26 October 2002 - 05:37 PM

"if you had the power who would you appoint "...

stephen jefferies

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 26 October 2002 - 06:11 PM

I have a few London friends who admired Jeffries greatly as a dancer -- considered him to be a sincere, intelligent artist and a thoughtful man. I don't know much about him as a director -- of the Hong Kong Ballet, I think, so Kevin may have an opinion there.

Why, Grace? Just curious -- what do you think he'd bring to the job?

#12 grace

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Posted 27 October 2002 - 01:46 AM

ah! - i was hoping i'd get away without answering the 'why' bit... (just laziness...) :)

you write that you have heard that jefferies is "a sincere, intelligent artist and a thoughtful man"...i would agree with that. and - more or less - that answers the question.

however, to add to that: he has the requisite background. 'requisite', in my view, in that he is a rightful inheritor of the (RB) tradition, so to speak. ...having served his time in the organisation, through the levels...knowing well everyone who has mattered there over the last 40 years or so...he incorporates the values which made the company what it was and is, while, at the same time, having his feet on the ground, and being a nice person (which is not always the case, with artists who have had such a sheltered upbringing, into a highly prestigious position).

he is completely familiar with the RB traditional repertoire. he was a superb actor, as well as an accomplished dancer and partner. he now has (5 years i believe) experience in the director's role, running a reasonable-size company (HKB, as you say) - and i agree that it would be interesting to hear kevin's views on this possibility.

he is married with a family, and is mature enough to have developed the better attributes of the older adult, without being so old as to be close to retirement age.

above all that, he was hugely respected within the company (as was/is monica mason). he was affectionately regarded by all levels, from what i saw. (perhaps you could say that he is in a similar position as david macallister was/is with the australian ballet - someone who everyone knew, who was a popular person, a welcome appointment, someone who 'everyone' genuinely wants to succeed...)

#13 Kevin Ng

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Posted 27 October 2002 - 04:14 AM

Frankly I've been disappointed by Stephen Jefferies' directorship of the 40-strong Hong Kong Ballet since 1996. In view of his Royal Ballet background, I am dismayed by how little he has made use of it to benefit the Hong Kong company as well as audiences. In recent years he has only introduced one Ashton ballet - La Fille Mal Gardee - into the company's repertory, which was quite decently danced by the two casts that I saw. In the first year of his directorship, one of the first programmes that he planned was an Ashton programme which consisted of "Les Patineurs" and "The Two Pigeons", the first of which had already been acquired by Jefferies' predecessor as director. It is annoying that both master works had not been revived since 1996.

The new ballets introduced by Jefferies have been by and large story ballets with a Chinese theme, which are undistinguished in terms of choreography, e.g. Matthew Hart's "Mu Lan", Domy Reiter-Soffer's "White Snake". The programming under previous directors was far more interesting - e.g. Balanchine masterpieces such as "Who Cares", "Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux", and "Allegro Brillante" which have unfortunately been ditched by Jefferies; or even some pure dance works by Choo-San Goh. Jefferies hasn't presented a mixed bill programme for at least two seasons. In comparison the diverse programmes offered by other Asian companies such as the Singapore Dance Theatre and the National Ballet of China are far more satisfying. (The National Ballet of China in "La Sylphide", which they danced on tour in 2000, is one of the few highlights in the Hong Kong ballet scene recently.)

I also don't comprehend why Jefferies has not brought more guest artists from the Royal Ballet. Tetsuya Kumakawa was the only Royal Ballet dancer (he had already left the Royal by the time he came) who has been invited to guest in Hong Kong.

On the plus side, the technical standard of the dancers has risen since Jefferies took over, though the acting ability of the company in general leaves a lot to be desired. Jefferies' own productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker were respectable, but his Sleeping Beauty was atrocious, revising Petipa's text unnecessarily in many places especially in the Prologue. I will never forget Jefferies putting two dancers in one of the fairies' solos in the Prologue. Jefferies also acquired a production of La Bayadere from a South African company, in which one of the three shades solos was excised.

#14 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 October 2002 - 08:38 AM

A slightly digressive comment -

There is one fairy variation in Sleeping Beauty that a few choreographers have set as a duet. I could be wrong, but I think it is the second of them (the one that ends with step-over turns) and people have cited the marking of the text with two names "Coulante & Fleur de Farine". Nureyev is one who has done this. My guess is the choreographic reason is to bring the number of fairies to seven so that the Lilac Fairy (or in Nureyev's case, the dancer who danced what we consider her variation - the Lilac Fairy was entirely a mime role) could be central. I'm neither defending or condemning it, just mentioning it to say that Jeffries may not have made it up on his own.

Back on topic!

#15 Alymer

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 12:15 PM

It is also perhaps worth pointing out that in the past former Royal Ballet dancers who have moved to direct other companies have received severe criticism for staging too many pieces from the Royal repertory. Both Alexander Grant in Canada and Brenda Last in Norway found this. It's quite a delicate balancing act pleasing purely local audiences. Ashton must have received his worst-ever notices in Norway!


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